June 20 (UPI) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday he doesn't believe the Russian government is responsible for the downing of an airliner five years ago, over Ukraine.
Mohamad told reporters there is no proof Russia was behind the missile attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, which killed nearly 300 people on board. U.S. officials have suspected Russia-backed separatists.
"I don't think it is true at all," Mohamad said. "We were very unhappy because from the very beginning it became a political issue on how to accuse Russia of the wrongdoing. So far, there is no proof. Only hearsay."
Mohamad's remarks came a day after a Dutch-led investigative team named four suspects it said were behind the plot to destroy MH17 -- Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinksy and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.
Criminal charges will be filed against the four men, though officials say neither Russia nor Ukraine will allow them to be extradited. They will be tried absentia when the trial starts in The Hague next March.
Kremlin President Vladimir Putin will speak Thursday on Russian television to deny accusations that Moscow provided the surface-to-air missiles that shot the flight down. He's also expected to deflect claims Russia is harboring some of the suspects.
Internet investigator Bellingcat has identified other possible perpetrators based on who was in the area when the plane went down -- using social media and facial recognition technology to identify suspected separatist fighters.